In 2017, the joint session of Congress certifying Trump's 2016 win took a little over 30 minutes; I watched it. There were a few objections from Representatives, but none were joined by a Senator and so Biden gavelled them into silence.

Section 15 of the US Code governs this process, and has this to say:

When all objections so made to any vote or paper from a State shall have been received and read, the Senate shall thereupon withdraw, and such objections shall be submitted to the Senate for its decision; and the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall, in like manner, submit such objections to the House of Representatives for its decision...When the two Houses have voted, they shall immediately again meet, and the presiding officer shall then announce the decision of the questions submitted. No votes or papers from any other State shall be acted upon until the objections previously made to the votes or papers from any State shall have been finally disposed of.

Note the ellipsis, which represents the omission of quite a lot of text, which does not seem to provide the answer.

My question is; given there's likely to be objections signed by at least one Representative and Senator, which will therefore require the Senate to withdraw and a vote to be held, and given it seems that this rigmarole must be repeated for each contested State (6 of them by my count)...how long is all this going to take? Is there some mandated minimum time that the Houses must debate for before voting, or can Pelosi/McConnell simply raise an immediate vote without any debate at all each time?

  • 1
    I suspect it won't take all that long. McConnell will let Republicans who feel they still owe fealty to the Trump base one shot, but then he'll remind Republican Senators that he is looking for volunteers to surrender their committee appointments given the Republican loss of majority. Commented Jan 6, 2021 at 16:05
  • @DavidHammen that is an excellent take, which I had not considered. Thanks for the input.
    – Dan Scally
    Commented Jan 6, 2021 at 16:39
  • 4
    Depends on how long it takes to clear the rioters out of the building.
    – Mark
    Commented Jan 6, 2021 at 21:25
  • 1
    @Mark yeah I think all normal calculations are out the window now.
    – Dan Scally
    Commented Jan 6, 2021 at 23:22
  • Done and dusted by 4 AM Thursday...
    – DJohnM
    Commented Jan 7, 2021 at 9:20

1 Answer 1


The time allowed for debate on an objection to a state's electoral votes is 2 hours.

This is mandated in 3 U.S. Code § 17 - Same; limit of debate in each House:

When the two Houses separate to decide upon an objection that may have been made to the counting of any electoral vote or votes from any State, or other question arising in the matter, each Senator and Representative may speak to such objection or question five minutes, and not more than once; but after such debate shall have lasted two hours it shall be the duty of the presiding officer of each House to put the main question without further debate.

A report from the Congressional Research Service (page 7) explained how this time was allocated in practice:

In the House, the Speaker announced both in 1969 and 2005 that he would attempt to recognize supporters of the objection and opponents in an alternating fashion for the duration of the two- hour period. In one instance in 1969, the Speaker inquired whether a Member supported or opposed the challenge before he agreed to recognize him to speak. Members can yield to each other during debate as they can during five-minute debate in the Committee of the Whole, and many chose to do so in 2005.

Depending on the number of states that will be objected to, expected to range anywhere from 3 to 6 states, the certification will likely take at least 6 to 12 hours. It's worth noting that additional time will still be needed for both Houses to vote on the objection (after every 2-hour debate on one state).

  • 1
    Ah! Knew I'd read a 2 hour reference somewhere but just could not for the life of me find it. Thank you very much
    – Dan Scally
    Commented Jan 6, 2021 at 15:24
  • 3
    LOL, they could make it take 102 hours. Even if only objecting to Biden states and DC, 52 hours. Also, as you mention the time to vote, it will take time to send the Senators back to their chamber, bring them back, call to order, etc.
    – Damila
    Commented Jan 6, 2021 at 15:34
  • Since AZ is high in the alphabet, it seems (AP link) that it will set the tone for the rest and Cruz will start objecting with that one. Commented Jan 6, 2021 at 16:01

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